Rethinking the conference

For years (and particularly when I’m about to give a conference presentation), I’ve wondered how it is that despite knowing that talking at people isn’t an effective way to give or receive information, we still create academic conferences that are predominantly based on presentations. In understand that we’re all busy, presentations are (relatively) easy to put together, they’re what much of the audience expect, and often the only thing that will allow us to be funded to attend.

I’m very excited to be working on the Playful Learning conference with Prof Mark Langan and Alex Moseley, which aims to provide a platform for people to try something different (and potentially fail too, that’s okay). We have playful and inspiring keynotes lined up,and a brilliant and creative conference committee supporting us. The conference is running from 13-15 July 2016 in Manchester and I’m getting excited already.


1 Comment

  1. Torill

    So far, most of the alternatives I have seen fail for all but a chosen few. Unconferences are, for instance, the work of the devil, designed to showcase the cool kids and hell for introverts or people who are new too the crew and have manners.

    What conferences in the traditional form do, and they do it very well, is to give everybody a moment to actually talk about their work. It doesn’t matter if they are clumsy or are just reading the paper, the standardised format and the option to stick to a prepared talk helps overcome language issues, nerves and lack of experience. Very experimental or creative formats will favour the people who already shine, by giving them more space for creativity. And if there are people who feel stifled by the formal format, I have not yet been to a regular conference where it wasn’t ok to say: I am not using this time to read, I am going to play/sing/question/engage in Socratic dialogue.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t experiment with conference formats. But we should be a bit careful about the challenges we include in a conference. I, for instance, write and speak English fluently, but I don’t understand a word of the incredibly speedy pitches that are so popular right now. By now I just skip them in conferences, as I know they give me nothing. I also avoid fishbowls, because I am not there to talk (beyond my scheduled minutes), I am there to hear what others have to say. I spend a lot of time actively listening, and I find it extremely rewarding. The rest of the time, I am there for the networking.

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